A Monitor guide to the bestsellers

1. Living History

Weeks on List: 1

by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Simon & Schuster, $28

Available on tape

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's life over the past decade should have yielded excellent fodder for storytelling. Unfortunately, few of those stories made it into her new memoir. Part wonky policy discussion, part travelogue, part rehashing of the '90s, the book contains no revelations about her time in the White House and little up-close-and-personal emotional confession. Clinton fans may enjoy it, and certainly her enemies will, but the general reading public won't find much in these pages. (Full review June 12) (576 pp.) By Dante Chinni

The Christian Science Monitor: Unfavorable review

The New York Times: Unfavorable review

Washington Post: Unfavorable review

2. A Short History of Nearly Everything

Last Week: 1

Weeks on List: 5

by Bill Bryson

Broadway, $27.50

Available on tape

There would be many more scientists in America if schools threw out their textbooks and began teaching Bill Bryson's fabulous new history of modern science. In a roller-coaster ride from the big bang to the advent of man, his tone of chummy curiosity assumes we all share his yen to know how things work and what they're made of. But science, Bryson reveals, is cutthroat work. This volume particularly succeeds by tipping its hat to lonely souls who devoted everything to their disciplines. (Full review May 22) (560 pp.) By John Freeman

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Kirkus Review of Books: Favorable review

Book List: Favorable review

3. Moneyball

Last Week: 2

Weeks on List: 3

by Michael Lewis

Norton, $23.95

Available on tape

Everybody knows big-market baseball teams have the cash to woo great players, and poor teams don't stand a chance, right? Witness the Oakland A's, a team that consistently wins despite one of the lowest payrolls in the leagues. This book profiles Billy Beane, the A's general manager, as he builds a team of players whose quirks might be considered flaws by scouts, but whose stats merit attention. A fine companion to Lewis's previous insider accounts of Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the Internet. (288 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Newsweek: Favorable review

4. An Unfinished Life

Last Week: 9

Weeks on List: 4

by Robert Dallek

Little Brown, $30

Available on tape

Dallek weaves a groundbreaking analysis of Kennedy's medical history with a sweeping explication of policy, the Cuban missile crisis, and Robert Kennedy's ascent to attorney general. Most intriguing, though, is the deftly rendered cult of vigor that sprang up in the shadows of JFK's illness and became his enduring, phantasmagoric legacy. Alongside pain, subterfuge, and impossible vigor, Dallek reveals in the Kennedy clan a recklessness that astonishes, even after a half-century's well-trodden literary ground. (848 pp.) By Christina McCarroll

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Boston Globe: Favorable review

5. The Teammates

Last Week: 4

Weeks on List: 4

by David Halberstam

Hyperion, $22.95

Available on tape

Baseball legend Ted Williams called them "My Guys." A half-century ago, Dominic DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, and Johnny Pesky starred for the Boston Red Sox and formed a friendship that revolved around the enigmatic, irascible, magnetic Williams. A final 2001 road trip to see the ailing Williams gives the teammates a chance to size up baseball and their friendship. In Halberstam's telling, they do more than reminisce about big plays: He reveals the drama of lives not always easy, but lived with few regrets. (222 pp.) By Greg Lamb

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Kirkus Review of Books: Favorable review

Publishers Weekly: Favorable review

6. Beyond Belief

Last Week: 5

Weeks on List: 4

by Elaine H. Pagels

Random House, $24.95

Pagels has a gift for bringing ancient Christian texts alive, and for displaying their profound import for contemporary experience. Her groundbreaking 1979 book, "The Gnostic Gospels," looked at early Christian writings termed heretical by early church fathers, who, in the second century, began to limit the Christian canon. Now, Pagels draws on further study of the texts - particularly the Gospel of Thomas - to reveal a diversity of early teachings about Jesus that will resonate with many today. (Full review May 15) (256 pp.) By Jane Lampman

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Kirkus Review of Books: Favorable review

Book List: Favorable review

7. Krakatoa

Last Week: 8

Weeks on List: 9

by Simon Winchester

, HarperCollins, $25.95

Available on tape

When Krakatoa blew its top in 1883, the material effects spread swiftly. Temperatures dropped and skies darkened around the world. But as Simon Winchester's lively and detailed story of the disaster shows, the volcano's explosion had a far broader significance: It gave birth to the "modern phenomenon known as 'the global village.'" Telegrams and sophisticated news media sent the story of Krakatoa's fury around the globe, spawning a culture of news sharing and disaster fixation that continues to thrive today. (432 pp.) By Noel Paul

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Kirkus Review of Books: Favorable review

Publishers Weekly: Favorable review

8. Reading Lolita in Tehran

Last Week: 3

Weeks on List: 10

by Azar Nafisi

Random House, $23.95

Tired of fighting a repressive administration and government, Nafisi assembled a private class for seven of her best female students in Iran to talk about forbidden works of Western literature. Incredibly, the controversial "Lolita" resonated most powerfully. Like its main character, her students felt themselves "the figment of someone else's dreams," those of an ayatollah who sought to "re-create" women in the image of an illusory past. A passionate, astute defense of the value of literature. ( Reviewed March 27 ) (347 pp.) By Heather Hewett

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

Kirkus Review of Books: Favorable review

Publishers Weekly: Favorable review

9. Who's Your Caddy?

Last Week: 13

Weeks on List: 2

by Rick Reilly

Doubleday, $24.95

Available on tape

Over the past few years, Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly has schlepped golf bags for big names like Jack Nicklaus, John Daly, and Donald Trump. While his humor focuses too much on his own ineptitude as a caddy, he shines describing guru Deepak Chopra's positive spin on his awful game, or LPGA golfer Jill McGill's snail-like putting. Reilly also gives touching portrayals of disabled golfer Casey Martin and blind golfer Bob Andrew. An enjoyable read for anyone with even a passing interest in golf. (272 pp.) By Vic Roberts

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

Book List: Favorable review

10. Leap of Faith

Last Week: 7

Weeks on List: 12

by Queen Noor

Miramax Books, $25.95

Lisa Halaby was among the first women admitted to Princeton, but it is her marriage to King Hussein of Jordan in 1978 that distinguishes her life. Noor's memoir describes her transformation from shy American to confident queen, a partner in her husband's efforts to modernize Jordan, heal rifts between Arab states, and bring peace to the Middle East. Her book blends the historical and fairy-tale elements of the royal couple's journey together, which lasted for two decades until Hussein's death in 1999. (467 pp.) By Kim Campbell

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

USA Today: Mixed review

11. The South Beach Diet

Last Week: 6

Weeks on List: 6

by Arthur Agatston

Rodale, $24.95

Available on tape

The South Beach Diet was born of a cardiologist's desire to give patients struggling with traditional low-fat or low-carb diets a livable regimen with which to lower cholesterol levels. Weight loss proved a pleasing side effect. In the book based on these findings, Agatston focuses not on no-carb but on good-carb dieting, and the effects of foods on blood-sugar levels. Though belied by a flashy cover, the book is true to its solid premise and benefits from a recognition of the psychological difficulty of attempted weight loss. (320 pp.) By Tonya Miller

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

Publishers Weekly: Favorable review

12. Open: Inside the Ropes at Bethpage

Weeks on List: 1

by John Feinstein

Little Brown, $25.95

Available on tape

Pro golf has always been played on well-groomed, private courses. In 2002, the US Open in Bethpage, N.Y., broke that tradition. Feinstein gives a unique behind-the-scenes glimpse at the 7-1/2-year effort to stage the tournament on a scruffy public golf course for the first time. Though he knows golf and its celebrities, there isn't a lot here about Tiger Woods & Co. This is a turf-transforming Cinderella tale, bunkered with USGA politics and TV money. Only the last quarter of the book gets close to the event itself. (384 pp.) By David Clark Scott

The Christian Science Monitor: Mixed review

Publishers Weekly: Unfavorable review

13. reefer madness

Last Week: 11

Weeks on List: 7

by Eric Schlosser

Houghton Mifflin, $23

Available on tape

Schlosser seems determined to explore America's seedy underbelly. The author of "Fast Food Nation" returns with a three-part book on marijuana laws, migrant labor, and pornography. The connection between the three - all are part of the American black market - is tenuous, but each stands on its own as an illuminating and informative essay (with the thin, repetitive look at migrant labor the weakest of the lot). Schlosser's writing can be fact-heavy, but he helps to shed light on complex, fascinating subjects. (320 pp.) By Amanda Paulson

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Unfavorable review

Kirkus Review of Books: Mixed review

Book List: Favorable review

14. Stupid White Men

Last Week: 12

Weeks on List: 78

by Michael Moore

Regan Books, $24.95

Available on tape

Filmmaker and activist Michael Moore is no fan of George W. Bush. But the "stolen" election of 2000 is just one of the targets in his latest book, which also includes essays on why real men are facing extinction and the "truth" about recycling. Moore offers plenty of suggestions for how Americans can get off the couch and make a difference. But his assessment of the state of the nation suffers for its lack of reference to the events of Sept. 11, which happened after the book was written. (304 pp.) By Kim Campbell

The Christian Science Monitor: Mixed review

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Unfavorable review

15. A Patriot's Handbook, edited

Last Week: 15

Weeks on List: 5

by Caroline Kennedy

Hyperion, $27.95

Available on tape

Despite drippy packaging (shiny type and a doe-eyed editor photo adorn the cover), it's hard to argue with the heavyweights in this compendium of American thought. From founders to dissidents to inventors, from John Winthrop to Ralph Ellison to Loretta Lynn, the collection reflects on the United States in prose, poetry, songs, and photographs. From the words of those who celebrated it, railed against it, fought for it, and demanded of it, generations can take inspiration - or at least a good fight song. (688 pp.) By Mary Wiltenburg

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

O! Magazine: Favorable review

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